Time to cut back the snark

It is past time to cut back the snark (with apologies to Lewis Carroll, for we do not mean his fantastical creature).

Snark is that curious breed of sarcasm that blends pithy quick-wittedness and ironic detachment with a dash of frustrated anger.   It has become the posture de rigueur among the ascendant creative class.

Snark is bread and butter for my generation.  Snark is, at times, a helpful inoculation against the hyper-purposeful earnestness of those who would empower us to live our best lives now as foot troops in their visionary schemes to change the world.   Snark is a steam valve when we feel emasculated by the muscle-willed bigwigs who callously pull the levers of the institutions that drive society.   Snark is a preemptive strike against getting burned yet again by those leaders who love you and have a wonderful plan for your life.

Yet the dark truth is that snark is an escape.   If I hide behind snark, then I don’t have to risk the deep woundedness that comes from betrayal and disappointed ideals.   If I project snark, then I don’t have to examine myself in the light of the earnestness of others.   If I use snark to deflate grand visions, then I don’t really have to risk presenting my ideas for how things should be.

It is impossible to build on a foundation of snark.  You can only use snark to trim away.    Snark is acid – useful as a cleaning agent when diluted and carefully applied, but destructive when consistently sprayed about.   Snark is weed-killer – helpful when carefully targeted at invasive plants, but ruinous to the whole garden if over-used.

What’s more, the manipulators have figured out how to use snark.  If we have learned anything from this past election cycle, it is that the masters of spin deploy snark to their audiences in an attempt to thoroughly destroy the opponent.   For it is easier to tear down the other guy than it is to positively articulate what you stand for.

And therein lies the problem of a steady stance of snark.   It withers our spirits.   It distances us from others.   It saps us of our voice.

The alternative is not to become Pollyannaish.   We don’t just turn off snark to regress to being happy clappy ken and Barbie dolls.   Rather we move through the snark to the wounded wisdom that lies on the other side.   Marvin Olasky used the term “Romantic Realism” – and that fits for me.  The Romantic Realist looks squarely at the mess in the world, reflects deeply on the mess in his own heart, and yet still asserts that there is hope, meaning, and beauty.

When I look past the power struggles of the institution of the Church, I see Christ.   The crucified Christ, crying out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”.   I also see the risen Christ and hear “The ends of the earth will remember, and turn to the Lord.”  That is a song that stirs more deeply than snark.

Soli Deo Gloria


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